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Shop Doctor: The Co-operative Service Station, Ingleton, Yorkshire

31 August, 2011
Page 13 

GENERAL APPEARANCE: The A65 Leeds to Kendal road is a busy main route, particularly during holiday periods. From the north west, The Co-operative Food Service Station is clearly visible but access is from the south east. From there, the pole is the first sign.

FORECOURT: The pole needs attention. The site is now supplied by Texaco but the pole is in BP green with the BP logo shabbily covered over in plastic. It's a shame because the canopy and pumps are all new, in smart Texaco livery.

Under the large canopy there is tight but okay access to the two pump islands (12 nozzles). The pumps were constantly busy. To the side of the shop is a large area with marked parking spaces and air, vacuum and jet wash facilities.

On the exterior walls of the shop were promotional posters, with one advertising 5ppl off the price of fuel when 30 is spent on groceries. Available out front are newspapers and a good display of flowers.

SHOP: On entering the shop, the first impression is that a 'quart has been poured into a pint pot'. But it has been 'poured' professionally. Space is limited, the shelving is high and the ceiling low. There is much refrigeration and a mass of floor displays all producing a feeling that there's a lot going on.

Food-to-go items are right by the front door so drivers just stopping to refuel and grab a snack can do so with minimal delay.

A good display of fruit and vegetables in cool cabinets leads to the back of the shop and a long run of refrigeration offering meat, dairy and ready meals. The off licence section offers a comprehensive range with a selection of wines and beers available from chillers.

The tightness of the shop layout and the abundance of boxes of stock to be put on the shelves made progress around the store a bit of a challenge. A wide range of products were on promotion, but so much so that it was difficult to identify the real bargains.

It was disappointing that there were no local products, hot food or drinks; that holiday-makers were not targeted; and that the shop offering was the basic Co-operative range. It was rather biased towards packaged groceries.

When I enquired about toilets, a friendly assistant said there were none but added that they were always being asked for them. There was a queue at the till and the assistant reported that they were always busy and that many people from Ingleton did their main shop there. I wondered if there were sufficient staff to manage this.

PROGNOSIS: Co-operative Food is part of The Co-operative Group the UK's largest mutual business owned by some six million of its consumers. This makes it a different sort of business but one together with other Co-operative societies that has been driving into the convenience store sector and now operates some 2,500 c-stores a significant number of which are sited on forecourts. The Co-operative's business model is focused on community values.

Shoppers have a lot of choice and The Co-operative Food outlets have to compete in today's highly competitive marketplace.

DIAGNOSIS: Due to the limitations of space, convenience store operators need to be extra vigilant about which categories and product lines are essential to their customers. Customer needs are constantly changing and, to optimise sales and profit, retailers have to carefully analyse and amend their category management.

PRESCRIPTION: "The Co-operative, good with food", is a claim that has become very familiar as the number of Co-op shops has grown and the amount of advertising has expanded. 'Good with food' can clearly mean different things to different people. I guess The Co-operative Food forecourt shop at Ingleton has different customers, all of whom may have a different understanding of the slogan.

To meet all these demands the business should re-examine staff levels to ensure exceptional customer service at all times. It should also consider the provision of hot-to-go snacks and drinks. It also needs to stock a range of local products especially bread.

It would seem that it has a pressing need to provide a toilet.

Clearly space is an issue, but with some category management, it should be possible to offer some of the above products and further satisfy customer demand.